“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small people who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.” Muhammad Ali
Episcopal graduate Jamiee Williams has big goals. Like the senior quote she chose above, they are big, but not impossible. Jamiee graduated from Episcopal as a member of the Class of 2017. She is now in her third year at Duke University, where she is studying civil engineering. Her big goals are unfolding and proving to be anything but impossible.
In June, Jamiee was one of two students selected as a Duke WIN Scholar. WIN Scholars are female students with proven leadership skills. Scholars are selected by the Duke Women’s Impact Network, an organization made up of women leaders who want to encourage the next generation to continue making a difference in the world. Already, Jamiee has held numerous leadership positions while at Duke. She currently serves as the Program’s Chair for the Duke chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She was previously a member of the Bass Connections research team that studied hazards and natural disaster mitigation. Jamiee is also a member of Duke LIFE, an organization that provides resources, mentorship and advocates for the needs of first-generation, low-income students. She is also a member of the Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) travel team. Jamiee even spent her summer getting to apply some of her technical and leadership skills with her internship at Skanska USA, a leading construction management firm.
Jamiee has also been selected as a Pratt Grand Challenge Scholar. According to the Duke Pratt School of Engineering website, the program “seeks leaders with the drive to take on some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.” The program offers hands-on research experience and includes a global and service-learning focus. The National Academy of Engineering considers 14 challenges to improving life on earth. The challenges range from making solar energy economical to providing access to clean water. As students research and work on their projects, they begin the work to truly make an impact on the world. As a member of DEID, Jamiee also has an opportunity to make a change. She is currently on a research team that is exploring ways to assist a community in Indonesia. The team is researching the project now and will travel to Indonesia in the future to implement it. Making such a difference before even graduating from college is big, but not impossible.
When considering universities, Jamiee knew she wanted to attend a school that would provide opportunities for travel. She has certainly found that at Duke. Jamiee is currently more than 8,000 miles away from her hometown of Baton Rouge, studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She has fully embraced the Australian culture and is enjoying local festivals and sightseeing. However, what she enjoys most are the people. “People talk to me all the time,” she says. “Australians have a way of making everyone feel welcome while also allowing everyone to be themselves.”
Jamiee is proving that it’s not impossible to remain true to yourself, even while adjusting to new cultures and chasing your dreams. In fact, this is something she has always done. In 2013, a young Jamiee enrolled in Episcopal’s Middle School for the very first time. As you can imagine, making the transition to a new school in the eighth grade can be challenging – but it’s not impossible. Prior to attending Episcopal, an introverted Jamiee was enrolled in a diverse public magnet school. Once she arrived on Woodland Ridge, she found that most students had existing relationships dating back to childhood. Many of the Episcopal students had grown up together in similar households with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. As a transfer student, Jamiee says it was interesting to navigate this new social structure and find her place in a community where she felt different and came from a different background. However, Jamiee embraced the opportunity before her, accomplishing much during her time as a Knight.
Jamiee was an active and engaged student throughout her Episcopal career. Although she entered a community where many students already had existing relationships, she found her cohort. By her senior year, Jamiee was active in Club UKnighted and a member of the National Honor Society. She was also a member of the Knights softball team and a state champion in the 4 X 200 meter relay and the 4 X 400 meter relay. Looking back on her Episcopal experience, she says she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone and it paid off. Jamiee now has the following advice for students who may be making a similar transition. “Embrace the moment while staying true to yourself,” she says. “Make the most of any and all opportunities and allow yourself to explore your true passions without fear of judgement or intimidation of others.”
Jamiee has also embraced her interest in engineering. She says she was always what she calls “pretty good” in the field. While some may think of engineering as a male dominated industry, this doesn’t bother Jamiee. “I’m going to do whatever interests me most,” she says. She hopes others will do the same. “Do what you love the most,” she says. “Let your passions drive your career. Don’t be misguided by the doubts of others or turned off by a challenge.”
Tenacity. Passion. Ambition. Jamiee Williams is approaching life with all of this and more. She is chasing her dreams. She is making the impossible, possible.